Monday, August 25, 2014

A letter to my daughter as she packs for college.

Little girl, I have good news and bad news.
Bad news: I will never do your laundry again. Not even if you move back home between semesters. Not even if you break both your arms. Now that you are an adult it is time you knew, there is no laundry fairy. It is me. It has always been me and you need to understand that beneath this 44-year-old chest beats the heart of a young person who hates doing laundry just as much as you do, now.
And speaking of clothes, I will also not be purchasing underwear for you. Never again since you started buying those fantastical, lacy little bits of nothing which would give your dad a heart attack if he ever did laundry. Which he does not. That's good news for you, but not so great for me.
On a brighter note, I will try, oh so very hard, to keep this stubby little nose out of things that are not my business. Once you leave my house, I will add you to my own, personal "framily" plan; if I wouldn't say it to a friend, I won't say it to you, my family. So if you come home and proceed to drink 1.5 litters of Pepsi 15 minutes before bedtime... well, mums the word. Dad agrees. Just know you are KILLING us, silently, in our hearts, with your disregard for your health. And if I sigh, dramatically, and lay prone on the couch, a pillow over my eyes so I do not have to witness you give yourself diabetes, remember that you are our eldest and we are unskilled at having adult children, thus prone to both mistakes and hysterics.
Other good news; feel free to leave your clothes everywhere, all the time. It is your roommate's problem, not mine. Punch away on your phone all you want. It is not my business if you burn through texts like popcorn at the movies and give yourself astigmatism staring at that tiny screen all day and night. 
Bad news; you'll be needing to find your own phone plan.
But the best news, the very best news, is now that I don't have to concern myself with any of it- with your laundry, your tidiness, your grades, or whether you made it to school on time- I get to just enjoy you without having to teach you a blessed thing. And that is wonderful news for me. Because you are funny and thoughtful and energetic and smart. You are wonderful company and I am looking forward to having such a stellar woman in my life. Just my rotten luck that you have to go and move out of state to make it happen.
And that is the worst news of all.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Severely Abbreviated Photo Diary of the Great American Roadtrip.

Twelve suitcases,
and still not enough underwear...
Driftwood lean-to.
Better than a fancy pants beach sculpture, anyday.
Still smiling.
(But its only day three.)

We snagged the good seats on the ferry.


Even better. 
Swim, swim, swim!

Saw this face more and more
as the trip wore on.

The magnificence of Niagara Falls!
At this point, we're all so tired, no one cares.

Holy Hannah, we made it to New York state!

Same to you, goat.
Evil Rooster.


So, twelve people walk into an ice cream store....

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Days 1-4; The Agony and the Ecstasy.

Day One: 

Day one is officially a success! We headed north, to Duluth, to pick up my sister and her husband before spending a day basking in the sun on one of our much loved Lake Superior beaches. Each of the Northern Wisconsin beaches we frequent has it's own character and quirks. Port Wing has an exceptionally large quantity of driftwood. Inspired by the bounty, folks have dotted the landscape with driftwood sculptures and tepees. Following their example, my eldest son and his Uncle constructed a simple, but effective lean-to; not terribly elaborate, but perfectly positioned to provide a bit of late afternoon shade. 

Meanwhile, not 100 feet from our happy-go-lucky group, an intensely focused father directed his children and wife in the creation of a twenty-foot long loch-ness monster, it's serpentine length rising from the sand.

"Overachiever," I sniffed.

"Those poor kids," sympathized my sister. We are both stalwartly against any beach activity that smacks of organized effort. (Except for picnics. Good picnics don't just happen, you know. Nothing is worse than a dry peanut butter sandwich, gritty from errant sand, which is, incidentally, what my family will be choking down in a few, short days.)

We then had an in-depth debate about whether or not I should put on sunscreen. Decision? No. I had put on a long sleeve shirt and we had compared our lilly-white legs, musing on the odd, but seemingly genetic condition that left us unable to tan on our legs, no matter what. Besides, we had the lean-to.

Surprising to nobody, I'm sure, my upper thighs burned to a fiery lobster-red. I spent the evening wishing for a couple ice packs. Luckily, I am easily distracted and between the fortuitous margarita happy hour special at the Mexican restaurant located in the parking lot of our motel (!) and an evening showing of Sharknado 2, I was sufficiently contented and fell into an exhausted slumber, having convinced myself the radiating heat was "comforting" and not really "excruciatingly painful." 

God bless tequila, anyways.

Day two:

Continuing my life-long record of never learning a lesson from anything, ever, I woke up early and decided to head off for a long, loping run along Lake Superior. I returned two hours later, with a sunburned back to match my legs. Alas, tequila isn't a legitimate breakfast beverage, so I couldn't medicate this one away. Sigh. 

This was a long driving day, from Ashland up to Sault St. Marie. A trip made longer by the southernly detour we had to make, in order to swim in Lake Michigan. Amazingly, the kids were adorable to each other the entire route, although that may have been the effects of lunch-time pasties (old timey meat hand pies!) and repeated stops for ice cream. 

Once we got to our hotel, we saw that AMC was airing Jaws, (which everyone is pretty much required to watch whenever it is on TV) the viewing of which elevated today to the "practically perfect" category of road trips.

"This vacation isn't nearly as awful as I thought it would be," marveled Miss Teen Wonder. 

Day three:

What benevolent God has taken us under his wing? Today was another loooooong driving day. Due to what Hubby terms a "late start" we had to hurry our little clan across Ontario to South Baymouth in order to make our ferry reservations -- or be stranded on the wrong side of Lake Huron. (In the children's and my defense, no jury would agree that 10:00 AM is late whilst on vacation. 10:00 AM is barely late in normal life.... Or at least it shouldn't be.)

Rather than beat each other to death with empty Sprite cans in a car trip grudge match, the kids took prolonged and repeated naps, waking only for chunks of Canadian candy and, what appears to be our secret weapon, ice cream. 

The ferry ride was beautiful, although attempting to drive our car up the steep upper deck ramp was terrifying enough to move both Little Man and myself to tears. Luckily, we could sooth our souls with giant bowls of poutine. (Fries, cheese curds and gravy...?!! Do the Minnesota State Fair people know about this?)

Our rented house turned out to be delightful and mere blocks from the ferry launch. Delighted, we collapsed into the living room floor and watched crappy reality television far into the night. The house was charming and we are so, so grateful to have a break from the road tomorrow.

Really. This trip is PERFECT.

Day four:

Today is the day WE PULLED THIS CAR OVER! Hubby went so far as to unbuckle his seat belt and make a move to GET OUT OF THE CAR in an effort to quell The Great Backseat Rebellion of 2014. Air conditioning vs open windows has become the major conflict of our time and subtle negotiations are on the brink of collapse. 

All we had for lunch were those aforementioned gritty peanut butter sandwiches and no beverages. We had a bag of something called "BBQ Ringalos" but as soon as we opened them, our eldest son tossed one to a nearby squirrel. Big mistake. Within minutes we were beset upon by fuzzy little scavengers, prompting us to eat the rest of our meager lunch in the car. The Lake Huron beach was too shallow and crowded to our increasingly persnickety tastes and the Bruce Peninsula National Park is home to nine - NINE - varieties of snakes, though thankfully the only one we saw was non-venomous.

It probably would have been nice to know that before I jumped into the poison ivy to get away from it.

None of this mattered, however, because of the magical Grotto and Indian Head Cove beach. The grotto is an underground pool. To access it you have to descend a rocky cliff, which can be difficult, especially if you are a slightly balance-impaired middle aged woman and a scaredy cat, to boot. 

But it is so worth it. There just aren't many opportunities to swim in clear water, underground pools in Minnesota. Or at least none that I know of. Though my medical condition (the aforementioned scaredy-cat-itis) prevented me from diving off the rocks into it's freezing cold depths, I did swim a bit and was so happy to have even stumbled upon this amazing place.

If you manage to scale the rock wall again, Indian Head Cove is just over the hill and it is BEAUTIFUL. The water is a dream, blue and pure as the Carribean, but cold. Perfect for taking a quick dip and then sunning oneself on the rocks. (Probably next to one of those many, many snakes, but it's best not to think about that.)

Tomorrow we head out with a three prong agenda: 
Swim in Lake Ontario
See Niagara Falls
Get Kirk to Buffalo in time to eat wings in his much beloved Duff's Restaurant...

But I wouldn't mind staying just one more day at the cove....even with all the snakes.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

And Away We Go!

Well, this is it, the Frauenheim Dankes are hitting the road. With an eye to our daughter's eminent departure for college, we have  planned the VERY LAST ROAD TRIP WE WILL EVER TAKE, ALL TOGETHER.


Two full weeks of togetherness; riding in the car together, eating together, staying in tiny hotel rooms together, spending every single minute together.... The hope is that this will be our final hurrah and cement a lifetime of happy memories.Yup. It will either be that or the kids will drive us to the brink of madness and make the prospect of losing one to college sound like maybe the best idea ever.

The kids are not thrilled. To them it sounds like torture. Especially since the best their Dad and I can offer is that we get to swim in all the Great Lakes! Whoopee! Super fun, right guys?

"You know, we'll driiiiiive for a while," we say cheerily," and then we'll swim, swim, SWIM!" Both of us pantomiming little doggy paddle motions and smiling from ear to ear just to demonstrate how very fun it will be. It doesn't help their mood at all when their dour expressions cause us to burst into laughter and then chant, "Swim, swim, SWIM!" ever more maniacally to each other, because, hello, disgruntled children are hilarious.

In truth, they have reason to be skeptical. Frauenheim Danke vacations are often rife with disaster. Like the year we spent Thanksgiving in a Motel 6 because our minivan broke down. Or the year we based our summer vacation around a trip to the cranberry bogs. Do you know what happens in a cranberry bog in summer? Nothing. Seriously, not a thing. I squandered precious vacation time to drag my kids to gaze at an empty field. They still totally give me shit about that.

Then there was the day in Ethiopia that we drove hours and hours in pouring rain to see these very special and beautiful lakes only to find the road we had chosen was impassable. Back we went to the beginning and back out again, on a different route. We scaled a muddy mountain trail surrounded by locals who were doing their very best to keep these dumb Americans, who clearly have the common sense of a cabbage, from slipping off the side of the trail and cracking their dumb American heads. When we got to the summit, lo and behold, the fog had rolled in, obscuring the entire valley. Our poor guide was clearly distraught, but we all burst into laughter. How to explain to him that, truly, this was more or less what we would've expected from any outing involving our family?

As a result, we're pretty darn good at forging ahead when things go wrong, which is lucky for us, since this vacation is starting out under a definite pall. Last week, my sweet, accomplished mother-in-law passed away suddenly. I think Hubby is just now getting over the shock of it. But like I said, we're good at forging ahead and so maybe this will be the vacation when we are a little subdued and remember to hug and kiss on Dad an awful lot. That'd be a good memory, right? Better than a cranberry bog in summer, anyway, but then again, most things are.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Obviously, This Post has no Photos.

Our race photos arrived in my inbox today. Photos taken by a multitude of professional photographers, stationed along the marathon route, either crouching at the side of the road or lofted high above the course, documenting our 26.2 miles from the bucket of a crane.

In every one of his photos, my husband looks strong and lean, handsome and athletic. He appears, to all the world, a marathoner.

In every one of mine, I look like a troll who crawled out from beneath a bridge. Or at least, as someone who should reconsider ever appearing in public wearing a tank top again.

The strong, dedicated athlete who lives in my brain never put in an appearance. The veteran marathoner who ran speed drills and hill repeats, who studiously counted protein grams and worked on core strength...? She never showed up, either. In my heart, I am a gazelle, fleet-footed and strong; in my race photos I am a chunky, middle-aged woman with frightening posture, lumbering toward an uncertain finish.

I want you to know, I ran a spectacular race. No, it wasn't the fastest or, clearly, the most photogenic, but I ran cheerfully for five hours. I enjoyed every bit of the Lake Superior shoreline. I never once turned on my ipod and I was never once tempted to quit.

In the past, I have had to expend a tremendous amount of energy beating down a mental chorus of doubt and despair, fending off the thoughts that I will never, ever finish, that the whole endeavor is foolish and that I would really, really like to quit.

This time there was only one, clear directive, "Run faster."

And I did. I sped up, slowly and consistently, throughout the race. My last mile was my fastest mile--who does that? Never me before and certainly not that lady in the photos, if one were to judge by the visual record.

It's a good reminder, isn't it? We never can tell, to look at a person, what's going on beneath the surface. We are not privy to their inner lives. We think we are seeing a bus driver, a lawyer, a waitress; never realizing that underneath they are a novelist crafting a new world, or a passionate lover of latin dance.....

Or maybe, a long-time runner who, having seen her fair share of crappy race photos in the past, had the good sense to pose for a picture BEFORE the race.

In that one, I look adorable.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Shhhhhh...... Just between us.

Have you met my husband, yet? He's super. A good man and a good father. (Don't ask the kids- they don't know a blessed thing. They think anyone who makes them fold laundry and eat the food I prepare for them instead of just subsisting on spicy Cheetos and Dr. Pepper is some sort of child abusing monster. Hubby believes his job is to raise them to be healthy, happy, ethical adults and also to protect me, their mother, from the constant stream of begging and demands for my attention. Good job, honey! Keep it up!)

He has also, admirably, become more environmentally conscious as he has gotten older. Awesome. Again, good job. I love him and respect him and would never, ever keep anything from him...

Except maybe this.

His environmental action has coalesced around eliminating plastic. Laudable goal. Yes. We could all stand to reduce the amount of plastic we consume. However...

I recently stumbled across several blogs from folks striving to become plastic free. Free. From. All. Plastic. Which, do not misunderstand me, is flat out awesome. Peruse their posts and the herculean task they have taken on becomes apparent. No plastic beverage containers, obviously. No liquid detergent. No powdered detergent, if it comes with a plastic measuring cup. No kleenex. (little plastic window on top.) No stretchy, moisture wicking running clothes. No milk- cow, soy or otherwise- in non-glass containers. (That film isn't wax, folks, it's plastic.) No disposable pens. No shampoo. No hair gel. No obscenely delicious salted dark chocolate almonds in the handy, resealable bag, even if they are vegan. No wine with plastic corks. Nothing shipped or stored or wrapped in plastic. Look around you. All that stuff? NONE OF IT.

Holy cow.

Let me say right off, that they all, to a person, have noted that you can't avoid the stuff 100%. Gonna' buy your pinto beans in the bulk section of the grocery store and put them in your own, reusable container? Guess what they were shipped to the store in? Right. A great big plastic bag.

Still, they are striving to do the very best they can, against a staggering reality and I think that is amazing. Amazing and depressing and daunting. Especially when it is pointed out that every thing ever made out of plastic still exists.

I need to lie down.

The reality of how much of the stuff is floating around out there is exhausting to contemplate. If Hubby so much as catches wind that there are folks who have managed to go so hardcore, my life will become roughly one zillion percent more difficult. As much as I am working to reduce our own plastic footprint, I'm not sure I'm ready for the headache of canning my own tomatoes (metal cans being lined in plastic) pressing homemade tofu and making my own deodorant--especially since the entire U.S. aspirin supply is tucked away in tiny, plastic bottles.

But maybe I can sort of eeeeeaase into it-- which really isn't like me at all. Normally, the challenge of something like this grabs me and I am ALL IN, BABY! This one, however, buckles my mind in the sheer enormity of it. Back-to-back marathons seem more possible. Building a time machine out of rubble seems like it might work, comparatively. So here's the plan:
       I'm going to pick five things that I can find non-plastic alternatives for. And when that gets absorbed into our daily habits, I'll pick five more. It seems like such a small amount that you kind of wonder if it could possibly make any difference. Then you multiply five by 52 weeks in the year, and -BAM!- 260 plastic items NOT added to the floating seas of garbage in the ocean. Then 520, then 780.... Maybe somewhere in there I'll actually let Hubby in on the plan.... But not until I find dark chocolate salted almonds in a glass container and a wine box with a biodegradable liner. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

And You Shall Call Me The Gray Enchantress!

My son begs me daily to dye my hair. Apparently, he is having none of the "aging gracefully" attitude I am trying to embrace and the white stripes which have started to bookend my face verily annoy him. Personally, I think they make me look rakish.

     "Mom." he begins, all high-school seriousness, "you HAVE to dye it... You are too young to have gray hair."

     "But, darling," I always counter, "if I dye it, how will people know that I'm a super-villain?"

     "At least stop pulling your hair back, then.  It's not so bad when you leave your bangs down."

     "What?! And cover the temples of doom? Never!"

I don't know, I strongly suspect that this little plan of mine is going to backfire. Rather than encouraging my kids to resist this hateful world of anti-aging creams and silicone injections, they might just take in their crazy, decrepit old mother and run for the cosmetic interventions as fast as they can, using their college funds to bank roll eye jobs and Botox.

And it's not as if I don't understand the impulse. The other day I caught a look at myself in the mirror and realized that cute is on its way out. (Actually, cute might have vacated the premises quite some time ago.) I understood that I cannot count on any sort of residual attractiveness to engender warm feelings in others. No conversations started simply because I looked like a pleasant person.

    "Lady," I admonished, "you had best take up a very interesting hobby."

The pisser is, I couldn't think of any! Right now, I have all the hobbies I want-- eating, napping and watching tv shows from the seventies on Netflix. I'm too damn tired for anything else. This does not bode well. Especially since time is rapidly running out.

I had breakfast with my peeps the other morning. ("Peeps" being the sort of word I love to torture my kids with-- like "totes" and "YOLO." Children are so intolerant of blatant uncool-ness, even if it is intentional. It makes it easy to torment them. You should try it.) One friend was updating us as to the state of a new, neighborhood cafe and it's sadly inattentive and careless young staff. Then she mentioned that she had a dentist appointment and I chimed in with a fascinating tidbit about a freakishly dangerous bug I managed to contract, when suddenly I stopped, looked at the table and asked;

     "Wait a minute. Have we just been comparing medical problems and complaining about the sorry attitude of young people today?"

Then we burst out laughing.

Holy smokes, that sneaks up on you easily. In the blink of an eye, "Where's the party?" morphs into, "Where's my reading glasses?" "I'm gonna' hurl!" has become, "I gotta' pee!"-- which, when I think about it, is probably a lateral move. If I'm going to become the sort of interesting, wise and tough old broad I aspire to, I need a plan and fast! Quick! Before that cruise ship has sailed.

So I need a new hobby, is what I'm saying. I need to be an expert at something other than cheap red wines and Gilligan's Island trivia. Less along the lines of the care of feeding of house cats and more like giant metal sculptures I weld in the back yard. Or Bollywood dance, which I am seriously, seriously considering. In a pinch, I could always fall back on super-villainy. I've already got the hair.